Adapting to life in Florence has been more challenging than anticipated but also very rewarding too. After a month and a half, I am starting to really appreciate the differences in culture, rather than shy away from them. For example, Italians live a very slow life and like to enjoy their days, boasting “la dolce vita” (the sweet life). This can be frustrating as, for example, people walk very slowly on the streets whereas the American students seem to always be in a hurry. Also, many places will close in the middle of the day to allow their employees to have a slow lunch. This part of Italian culture was at first very annoying, but I grew to love it and enjoy it!
Another huge challenge for us has been the lack of all-inclusive convenience stores (like a Walmart or Target). In order to pick up toothpaste and a pillow case, we had to run all over Florence. It can be annoying to have to go to multiple stores instead of one store having all that you need. This is a huge difference than at home where most places have a wide variety of items in one stop.
The best way to navigate these cultural differences is to embrace them! We came here knowing that things would not be exactly the same as home, and now that we are living through it, times can be challenging but the best way is to learn to love the culture – which I have definitely done here in Italy.
Another thing that I have had to adjust to is spending increasing amounts of time on my own. Whether that be exploring the city, spending meals alone, or going to an art museum – I spend a lot of time just by myself, especially during the week. A lot of my friends live all around Florence and have very different class times than I do, so I have gotten very comfortable with hanging out in public and even traveling alone! I am very grateful for this skill that I have been able to develop here because I know it will be very transferable back at Pitt too.
Other challenges that have come up are related to traveling. This past week was our spring break, and I was able to see Lisbon, Madrid, and Barcelona. Organizing this trip with flights, trains, accommodations, etc. was super tough as there are a ton of moving parts involved. Once actually arriving, it is difficult to adjust to a completely new culture and language as well. And then doing it all over again in a different country the following weekend. It is all a whirlwind all of the time, and I am constantly exhausted, but I am super grateful for the opportunities and it is important for me to always keep this at the front of my mind.
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